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McChrystal helps Dems use info warfare tool, partially Pentagon-funded, to target pro-Trump accounts, help Biden

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A Democrat-aligned political action committee being advised by retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal plans to utilize an information warfare tool that initially took funding from the Pentagon’s secretive research division DARPA to benefit the campaign of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

As reported by Fox News, the transformative technology was originally believed to be an effective tool to fight ISIS propaganda.

Called “Defeat Disinfo,” the initiative will employ “artificial intelligence and network analysis to map discussion of the president’s claims on social media,” then try to “intervene” in them by “identifying the most popular counter-narratives and boosting them through a network of more than 3.4 million influencers across the country — in some cases paying users with large followings to take sides against the president.”

The initiative, first reported by the Washington Post, is being led by social media expert Curtis Hougland, after obtaining funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency when it was “part of an effort to combat extremism overseas.”

He told the Post that he didn’t like the fact that top social media accounts often expressed support for President Trump and that they had effectively defended him from media claims that he supposedly suggested Americans inject themselves with disinfectant to ward off coronavirus (he actually didn’t suggest that).

The initiative has raised questions about the repurposing taxpayer funds for political uses and whether social media platforms have any regulations in place that forbid such efforts, to begin with.

Fox News noted that a Facebook spokesperson said “our policies require creators and publishers to tag business partners in their branded content posts when there’s an exchange of value between a creator or publisher and a business partner.”

The spokesperson added that politicians and PACs authorized under the platform’s policies are permitted to use the site’s branded content tool.

The network added:

As part of the authorization process for advertisers, Facebook says on its website that it “confirms their ID and allows them to disclose who is responsible for the ad, which will appear on the ad itself. The ad and ‘Paid for by’ disclaimer are placed in the Ad Library for seven years, along with more information such as range of spend and impressions, as well as demographics of who saw it.”

A spokesperson for Twitter did not immediately provide an on-the-record comment to Fox News. In 2018, Twitter launched its Political Campaigning Policy, which promises a degree of “transparency” for paid political communications.

For his part McChrystal, a retired four-star general relieved of his command in Afghanistan by President Obama for deriding the administration in a Rolling Stone interview, said while the effort might seem dishonest, it’s nevertheless a necessity in today’s political environment.

“Everyone wishes the Pandora’s box was closed and none of this existed, but it does,” he said.

McChrystal has not come out and backed Biden specifically, but the new info-warfare tool is designed to help the former vice president’s campaign. It should be noted that McChrystal has gone on record in the past knocking Biden’s competence, Fox News noted.

The fact that a Democrat-run PAC is set to employ the AI tool to assist the Biden campaign reeks of hypocrisy.

Facebook came under extreme scrutiny from the Left after The New York Times reported in March 2018 that the 2016 Trump campaign used an online tool to harvest private user data from about 50 million users of the platform.

The tool was employed by Cambridge Analytica, which had secured a $15 million investment from wealthy GOP donor Robert Mercer.

Democrats were furious.

“We must do more to learn how foreign actors collect and weaponize our data against us, and what impact social media has on our democratic processes,” Democrats from the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees warned in a joint statement in April 2018. “Cambridge Analytica is not the first company to engage in these types of tactics, nor will they be last if we fail to conduct oversight and investigate this matter thoroughly.”

The Hill added:

Members leaving the briefing said they were struck by how Cambridge Analytica, which is based in London, operated with the sophistication of a military unit and worried that the U.S. was vulnerable to such firms manipulating elections.

“A very disturbing testimony in my view, because it really shows how there was a coordinated effort to mislead and to use propaganda to influence an American presidential election,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said.

Jon Dougherty

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